The Hues Corporation, a Las Vegas-based R&B group, first came to prominence as the band in the film Blacula, which provided the band with the break they had been seeking, and which resulted in a record deal. Though success was long in coming, when it did come, it was well-deserved. Freedom For The Stallion, released in 1973, was an impressive melding of styles, from pop, R&B, and country. With tasteful strings, harmonic arrangements blending male and female voices, and socially conscious lyrics, they were a hip and aware band that appealed to a wide audience. The voices of lead singers Fleming Williams and Hubert Ann Kelley blended nicely, creating a sound instantly familiar and yet oddly exotic.
Their biggest hit, “Rock the Boat,” not only highlighted their vocal prowess, but it also was one of the first chart-topping disco numbers. Forty years later, it’s still a popular song, played daily on the radio and appearing in disco playlists across the country. It’s a timeless little number. However, the song was a double-edged sword; its upbeat disco groove was an anomaly from the rest of the album, which would help to damn the group to a one-hit wonder status.
That doesn’t mean the rest of Freedom For The Stallion isn’t a fine record. The groups unique harmonies and arrangements often recalled The Fifth Dimension, and their songs were deep in meaning. Many of the songs dealt with African-American culture and issues, from the problems of poverty on the family (“The Family”), the plight of the inner city (“All Going Down Together,” “Living a Lie”), to black pride (“Melody Maker (Sweet Soul Shaker)”). The album’s thirty-three minutes may be painfully brief, but that doesn’t mean it lacks for quality; indeed, Freedom For The Stallion is an album that wins over the listener, and then lures them back in with its sweet soul sound.
Unfortunately, creative differences and egotism would prove to be Hues Corporation’s downfall. Though they did release a handful of records, the magic spark had been dimmed, members came and went, and the impressive magic of Freedom For The Stallion would never be recreated. The band’s fate doesn’t dilute the magic of this debut album; if anything, it accentuates the fleeting nature of potential, and how greed can ruin a good thing.
Categories: Album Reviews